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How to Make Saying No Through Email Easy with 9 Different Templates

OfficeNinjas Emails For Awkward Office Scenarios

Let’s face it—even when you work in a traditional office, you spend most of your time communicating with colleagues through email. Though it takes up 28% of your week, email just seems easier to deal with than meeting in person or scheduling calls, especially when you’re juggling a million and one priorities. The catch? Every now and again, you’ll run into a sticky office situation (read: super awkward) where you’re faced with having to turn down a request. Even though the person on the other end can’t see your panic face, saying no through email isn’t always easy to do.

As round two of our email template series, we’ve written 9 email templates for awkward office situations that you can save for later. Feel free to use and tweak as you see fit!

Turning Down a Meeting

Whether it’s for yourself or your boss, sometimes saying no to a meeting request requires more than a simple decline. If you’re saying no through email, leave the door open to reschedule. This shows that you’re not just hiding and are willing to put it on the docket later. You can also ask the person to provide action items after the meeting is done so you still get essential details.

Decline While Asking to Reschedule

Hi [Name],

Thanks for sending the meeting invite over. Based on my current schedule, I won’t be available on [insert date here] at the time you’ve carved out, but I am free on any of the dates/times below if one of these works on your end.

[option 1: insert date and time]
[option 2: insert date and time]
[option 3: insert date and time]

Please let me know which date works best for you and I’ll get it on the calendar!

Decline While Asking for Action Items

Hi [Name],

Thanks for sending that meeting invite. Unfortunately, I’m not able to attend because of prior scheduling—but please keep me updated with action items I may be able to help with. You can feel free to send those notes over after the meeting, though I won’t be available right away.

Saying No to a Project

When your boss assigns something completely out of scope, or a colleague asks for (yet) another favor, saying no through email is necessary—for both your sanity and documentation purposes. Any time project details are involved, a written conversation can help solidify what was discussed.

When The Project is Part of Your Job, But You’re Up to Your Eyeballs in Work

Hi [Name],

Thanks for including details about [project name]. Based on our last conversation, my priorities for this week are as follows:

[Priority project #1]
[Priority project #2]
[Priority project #3]

Since I’m currently at capacity with these tasks, should I table [new project] for [day] next week? This works best on my end so I can complete the above tasks without affecting the overall timeline.

Please let me know if I should priortize the steps you mentioned instead.

I appreciate the clarification!

When The Project Is Just Not Right for You

Hi [Name],

Thanks for thinking of me on this one! I’m always up for a challenge, but this falls a little too far outside my skillset. Even though I can’t help you out, I do have a tip—this sounds like a great assignment for [insert name of colleague whose job it actually is]. [S/he] handles similar cases all the time!

I can forward the instructions over to [Person] if that’s helpful?

Avoiding an Introduction You Don’t Want to Make

Maybe you don’t know the requester that well, it’s been a long time since you’ve chatted, or you’re just not comfortable making an introduction.

Hi [Name],

Great to hear from you, thanks for reaching out!

[Name of person they want to meet] really is awesome and I’m lucky to work with [him/her]. Unfortunately, I also know that [Person’s] schedule is packed for the next few weeks, so I’d prefer not to add any more to that workload! I might be able to help though, so you can shoot me any questions you have in the meantime.

A Recommendation You Don’t Want to Give

We’re all for boosting the Ninja image and helping each other, but sometimes, you get a recommendation request that just doesn’t feel right. Plus, handing one out without full support from your gut can come back to haunt you later.

When You Can’t Comment on Their Skills

[Name],

Thanks for thinking of me, I really enjoyed working with you. However, I’m not sure I’m the right person to write your recommendation, as I can’t adequately speak to your skill in [area they want kudos for].

If you have another colleague or former direct manager who saw you in action, I’m sure their recommendation would be more telling of your abilities.

Best of luck!

When It’s Company Policy Not to Give Recommendations

Even if you wanted to give a recommendation, your company policy might now allow it.

Hi [Name],

I really enjoyed working with you on [project], but our company policy restricts us from providing any personal recommendations. Sorry I couldn’t help with this!

A Vendor You Don’t Want to Work With

Nurturing vendor relationships is always a priority for a Ninja, but there are some you just don’t want to work with.

Hey [Name],

Thank you for all the help you’ve given up to this point! We’ve decided to go in another direction, but will keep [company] in mind for future partnerships that could work out better.

Much appreciated,

Money You Don’t Want to Give

Someone is always fundraising for a worthy cause or charity, and it’s common to ask colleagues. No one wants to be seen as the office scrooge, but you can’t donate to every community event, charity, or school theater project without going broke.

Hi [Name],

That’s a great cause to get behind, thanks for thinking of me! This year, my focus is on [your favorite charities], so I’m saving all my extra change for that.

I’m rooting for [you/your child]—best of luck!

Saying no to a project or an invite doesn’t have to be hard. The key—especially in email—is to be honest, direct, and gracious about the request. That way, you get your message across without burning any bridges.

Ninjas, what other workplace scenarios have you gotten out of through email? Let us know below!

Responses

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  1. Wonderful resource! It always takes me so long to come up with such emails. I have another one to add: How do I decline politely in this situation, without driving the potential customer away? A potential client was given a marketing proposal (larger scale, 100K), has then received a very scaled-down proposal (10k) to support part of the project only. Then lots of free advice, ideas about methodology etc, and now comes back saying they’ll do it themselves but would like your help on a budget of 8 paid hours !??

  2. I think that is one of the so much important information for me.

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  3. Fantastic post but I was wondering if you could write a litte
    more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Cheers!

  4. Hi! I run a small design business and work with vendors and consultants regularly. One of my clients needed a visual solution for a photo spot on a page on the web site I am designing for them. I suggested using an illustration for part of the design that I am creating for them and showed them examples from a freelance illustrator that I often work with. Now she wants to meet my consultant directly. I do not want to connect them. I have also gotten the question of wanting to work with my printers directly. I don’t believe she is trying to replace me but wants to get involved in the direction of these aspects. I need to know how to politely refuse without losing the project or upsetting my client. This is “proprietary” info.

  5. How about on refusing to relocate in a different office, as I feel I ll end up doing other jobs than my own job.

  6. how to write an email to refused staying in company accommodation,

  7. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I just used your template to tell my boss that my workload was such that I couldn’t perform a task she requested. Not only did it work, but she ended up asking me how she could help me with my workload! I was able to clear enough off of my plate to actually perform the task she originally asked for! Teamwork makes the dream work!

  8. One thing I still can’t agree that we are trying to excluding a Bangladeshi food vendor / volunteer organization where huge number of community members help, contribute and provide volunteer hours. Feel proud to be part of that organization by cooking food and kids get volunteer hours. Community members buy food during program to help the organization, given that they have other choices.

    It’s 100 % against what I believe and passionate about. Feeling extremely extremely 😞 .
    How to say no to this message

  9. How do I go about declining an optional meeting with my boss, one on one? I know what she will say as we’ve had the discussion before, however I disagree with her point of view and don’t want to hear her point of view again as I’ve proven it to not be factual, in doing this, she made a gesture that her door is open for discussion on the topic. I’m just thinking of ignoring the invitation and not responding, but I don’t know if this is more rude than declining?

    I’m thinking:
    Hey,

    Thank you for offering your time to discuss . As you have stated, we’ve had this discussion before and I too can remember the detail of the meeting. I understand your point of view, so I view the meeting as not necessary.

    Regards,
    Marcell

    1. She want to power play you so give her the professional courtesy (validate her). She want to tell you in other words she is the boss and the way to do that is to address it (because you know what?!? It is not going to go away. So go in the office listen to what she has to say and when she ask you about your opinion do the this:

      There is 3 Step process called The Surrender Tactic: that you have to follow:
      1. State your objection. “It’s difficult for me to see how that will work.”
      2. Convey trust. “However, I trust your judgment. …”
      3. Show your support. “You have my support.”

      Sometimes you agree with people sometimes you don’t, but when you find area’s where you can surrender and you know that you don’t necessarily see it the same way you have to let them have the professional freedom that they deserve.

      Now that you have done that you have gone on record stating the fact that:

      This is not the way that I would choose to go. Just so you yall know!!!

      But you are not doing it a way that is belittling or that is confrontational or that is negative you simply stating that:

      “It’s difficult for me to see how that will work, but I’m opened; and I trust you judgement, and you have my support.”

      On word of advice:

      Remember that when you say to somebody:
      “I disagree.”
      it create a biochemical and hostile environment in that person’s body.

      Everything that we say / communicate to somebody even if it is not verbally it can be in writing or it can be non-verbal communication, everything we do creates a biochemical response in the person whom we are communicating and it’s important to know what words and phrases you may be using that are inadvertently creating a hostile environment in the person with whom you’re communicating, because that closes the lines of communication.

      And whether people know it or not people who watch you communicate especially those who you may want to give you down the road a promotion or a raise or something like that when they see you communicating like a savvy polished professional they want to start paying you more accordingly right?

      Principle:

      “You’re paid exactly what the person paying you thinks you’re worth.”

      So many of us are frustrated in our jobs because we don’t thing we’re getting the respect or the money that we deserve. Change the words it changes the entire world, because remember when you change your verbal patterns it changes your thought patterns. When you change your thought patterns it changes the way you see the world and when you change the way you see the world it changes the way the world see’s you.
      Everything changes when you start changing your words and it’s something you can do right now.

      Today is to purge the phrase: “I disagree.” , because imagine someone say’s to you:

      · “Well I understand what you’re saying I just disagree.”

      Those are fighting words right? Or people might have gone to a seminar and read a book that told them to say this:

      · “Well I respectfully disagree …”

      And those are fighting words. Or one of the worst phrases people can use:

      · “Well let’s just agree to disagree shall we?”

      Come on those are totally fighting words any one of those is going to create a negative biochemical response.

      If you however talk about the way you see it, about the way you get your perspective, it changes the entire message. Watch:

      · “Well, John I can understand why you see it that way I simply see it differently, but go ahead tell me more.”

      or:

      · “John I understand why you might see it that way I simply have a different perspective but tell me more this is interesting.”

      or:

      · “John I can understand why that would be your perspective I simply have a different one.”

      When you talk about your perspective, that now it’s objective; when you talk about whether you agree or not with somebody’s facts that is not objective, at least in their minds, and creates a hostile environment closing the lines of communication and sabotaging your success.

      So whether or not people who are watching you know what you are doing or know the specific words that you are whether purging from or adding to your verbal repertoire they will know that you are not communicating like other people therefore you do not deserve to get paid as other people get paid. You deserve to get the salary, the recognition, the jobs the prestige of a savvy polished communicator so start using that phrase and you will see differences right away.

  10. how to say no in official picnic

  11. these are brilliant. I am in a new job, how do I turn down the office mid-year party? I have a hospital apt but I don’t want to share that with the world!

  12. How do you politely decline an email meeting request for your boss when your boss says “No” he/she doesn’t want to meet with that person? This is from an outside person they don’t really know.

    1. I need this as well, a thank but no thank you to a meeting request to someone outside the company.

  13. Hi, love these templates. I’m not really good at wording gracious polite emails when it comes to saying no. I have a meeting coming up that involves travel for about a week, however I have a lot of projects I need to work on and catch up after the holidays and also have my husband’s birthday during the time of travel and I would be extremely stressed trying to catch up with work and since I’m also the logistics organizer of the event it means working a lot of over time and it’s a lot of pressure for me to travel under these circumstances. I’m not sure how to word my email so it doesn’t sound like Im complaining about my workload. I know my presence is not absolutely necessary but my attendance to these meetings is greatly appreciated by my boss because I get to help with all the on-site logistics, controlling slides, presentations and solving any technical issues etc. Can you help with a template for this? Thanks in advance for your help.

  14. How about one declining purchase requests for specific food items in the communal kitchen? (e.g. organic yogurt, specific brand of milk, crunchy peanut butter, etc.)

    1. Great idea! What do you usually say?

  15. These are great! I especially like the one about prioritizing. My boss thinks I do nothing all day and he has recently discovered his hatred for email communications. When we chat, I have to follow-up with something in writing to ensure I remember the conversation, and to remind him of what he said. Thanks for the templates! :-)

    1. You’re welcome, Lisa!

  16. What a goldmine!

    1. Yep! Which will you use first?

  17. I love stuff like this. Thank you.

    How about one for when your boss agrees to meet with an employee several levels below him, then later says “I really don’t need/want to meet with them”. I don’t mind doing to dirty work, but find myself stumped on how to basically tell them…”Sorry, but he doesn’t really have time for you!” :-)

    1. Hi Melissa!

      Hmmm, that IS a tough one. I would probably tweak the introduction email to something like this:

      Hi [Name],

      [Name of person they want to meet] was really excited to meet with you, but their schedule is full for the next while and unfortunately, he has to postpone, to avoid adding even more to his workload. If there’s anything you’d like me to pass along, I’m more than happy to relay the message for you.

      Thanks.

  18. Awesome information and greatly appreciated!

  19. Thank you so much, very helpful, definitely bookmarking this page!

    1. That’s awesome, Erika! Email templates are always a good thing to have on hand. Let us know if you end up using any!

  20. I meant These! not this!!!

  21. This are all awesome!!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  22. these are really good!
    I need one for pushing back on booking meetings for co-workers that they basically can book them self, any suggestions?

    1. Hi Susanne,

      I would probably tweak one of the project templates to something like this:

      Hi [Name],

      I’d love to help you book your meeting but I’m currently at capacity with my key projects this week. I know the ability to book space isn’t limited to me only now, and if you have a few minutes, I can walk you through how to book rooms on your own. I can forward the instructions to you as well, if that would help.

      Thanks.

  23. Hi,
    Please email me a copy please.
    Many thanks!

  24. I wish I had these before I declined an internal meeting for my boss (just now-sigh). I always try to soften the blow and I really like how the templates are worded. Thanks for the suggestions!

    1. Aww, that’s too bad! Well, now you have them for future use, Mia! Let us know if you use any others :)

  25. These are great! I am going to put them as a template in Outlook.

  26. Love these. It’s always hard to think of something that’s not “brash” or too honest, so those are good templates to keep on hand!

    1. Thanks, April! Saying no is hard enough, and email is always a tricky medium for it. Glad you liked them! Let us know if there are any others you’d like to see :)

  27. Great ideas, now I need to find something to say “No” politely to ;-)

    1. Haha, surely something will come up! Let us know of any other email templates you’d like to see, Amber!

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